by / June 28th, 2016 /

Interview: Obamabo..”It’s always good to start on a clean slate”

Oisin Daly is an Irish musician and electronic producer hailing from the town of Eyries in West Cork.  He’s been quietly publishing his own music, spanning multiple genres and under a variety of monikers since 2009, and since moving to Savannah Georgia in 2013 he has been continually upping his game and pushing his own boundaries with each release.  His latest LP is an expansive work that builds on his previous releases, culminating in a mature and focused album that melds a wide palette of influences in a very impressive electronic release.

With Obamabot hitting the virtual shelves last month via Bandcamp, we thought it was high time to get in touch with the man himself and find out how life has changed since moving his musical wares to the Deep South of the US of A.

You left Ireland a few years back.  Can you tell us what you have been up to since moving to Savannah?

I moved here shortly after releasing Love is a Gift, which I had been working on between Savannah and Galway, and followed that up pretty quickly with Uku Pacha after I moved here (which was also released by Little l. Records back home).  After that release I realised I had to put more work in to establish myself here in order to get my stuff off the ground.  I’ve been putting a lot of work into organising grass roots DJ nights and producer showcases around Savannah, and I helped organise a festival here last year.  That aside I starting playing with a local band here XuluProphet and started a dub-reggae side Project, Colonial FX, the name I came home and played under at a few festivals last summer, including the main stage at Trenchtown for Electric Picnic.  I have also been constantly remixing for artists here and back home to keep myself relevant and keep my name out there.  I released a compilation of my remixes on Bandcamp called Remiximer and a Colonial FX remix EP, Redubs.

Do you think the move to the US has helped you nurture your creative side and realise your potential musically?

It’s always good to start on a clean slate and to reinvent yourself so to say, so that helped.  Also the fact that the electronic scene here was broken down and I put so much work into building it back up made me learn a lot about the wider aspects of what it means to be part of a local scene.  I had to build a scene to put myself into it, and now it’s finally started to pay off, and its fair to say I have learned a lot in the process.  Another aspect about Savannah in particular is that it is a relatively small town, yet has one of the largest art colleges in the country, which of course brings artistic and creative people from all over the country into town, which in turn fosters a creative community that has multiple facets.  This allowed me to focus more on just making music, but also about creating and realising a vision of an album, or a show, as a completed piece of art rather than just another tune for Soundcloud or whatever.

What do you think are the main differences between the way the arts/music is approached over in Savannah and the US as opposed to the way it is back home?  Is there much funding for the arts in the US?

The US by its nature is very much anti-big government interference and there isn’t a lot of federal funding for social programs or artistic development.  Everything here leans towards private enterprise, so in that way there is not a lot of funding for the arts here in such that it’s difficult to just apply for a grant from the arts council like back home.  You would be more likely to seek a private donor or sponsor or whatnot.  What this does foster however is a tightly knit, grassroots local art and music scene, where people open up their homes and businesses for art shows and music shows and people donate towards buying pieces of art or towards music.  So in a way its a more self sufficient community, and no one is pandering to the arts council.  However, in another sense it means your art has to be marketable, at least to somebody, and there is less room for ‘art for art’s sake’ so to speak.  Also going back to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) – they do offer support here, especially to their own students and Alumni, but this is a private school, and a very expensive one at that, so most students either need to come from wealthy backgrounds or have a mountain of student debt to deal with, which is difficult if you are trying to make a living in an underground art scene.

The debut album sounds like quite a step up in production from your previous EP Love is a Gift.  Can you tell us about the creative process and honing your sound?

Well I’m always learning, and every release is a step further from my previous one.  Since Love is a Gift I have been working a lot on the more technical side of production, sound design, mixing, mastering, etc, and also trying to simplify a little, sticking to a few main instruments and plugins instead of throwing a hundred different effects on a track and not really knowing what they are all doing.  Also when I moved here first I began working and training in a live sound capacity, which has also helped my understanding of how everything is supposed to sit.  All that said, the focus on this album was mixing and matching modern and futuristic sounds with more traditional sounds and beats. I used iPad apps quite a bit for some of the more glitchy sounds but i used very few VSTs or midi sounds.  Most of the synths came straight from the Microkorg and a lot of the saturation sounds were live guitar playing.  A lot of the time I’d make a fully electronic track, sit on it for a couple of months, then come back open up the project, plug in my guitar and see what happened.  A few of the tracks I did in one take on the guitar with this method.

The tracks on Obamabot feel like very well defined ‘songs’, for want of a better word, was there anything that influenced you toward a more traditional approach to song-writing rather than the more improvisational feel of your earlier releases?

Well going back to my previous point, I wanted to create an album as a piece of art, rather than just another digital download.  Also this was two years in the making and was not a rushed release.  When I made Love is a Gift it was an exciting and crazy time in my life, everything was going really fast and I was just trying to capture the excitement of everything.  After i moved here everything slowed down and it was a long road getting all my immigration stuff sorted out, etc.  And the cold-steel reality of living in America set in (laughs).  Also this is the longest time I’ve lived in one place since i left my parents house at the age of seventeen, so I have undergone a lot of personal development.  Also, as I’ve got more involved in DJing in a traditional sense I came to understand the roots of structure in electronic music, from a mixing standpoint, so I guess this helped in a way.

Can you tell us a little bit about your other projects?

Right now I’m playing a lot of shows with XuluProphet.  Xulu played in a reggae band for ten years but has a great love of 80s’ music, and Phil our drummer loves to play progressive rock, almost metal-style drums.  That added to my eclectic sensibilities and my background as a blues/rock guitarist, this combined with my love for reggae and world music makes for an interesting sound.  We’ve been called psych-funk or heavy reggae, but we don’t like to put a label on it.  We have also been incorporating live art and dancers into our shows and developing a whole storyline involving mystical creatures (laughs).  We are currently recording and hope to have an album out this year.

Colonial FX has been on the back burner while I was preparing Obamabot but I recently had tracks featured on Boom One Records and Dubophonic, net labels, based in North Carolina and Cyprus respectively. I began CFX as I knew that Obamabo was difficult to market to labels because it had no defined genre or sound, and hence no selling point. I’ve always had a love of dub-reggae and got involved with the dub and soundsystem culture during my time in Galway, so I decided to create a new brand, focusing on one type of music and see how it worked out.  So far, so good and I hope to get back to making dubs soon.

Tell us about the name ‘Obamabo’.

Haha, well this goes way back to when I was living in Vancouver. The first track I ever completed (a twenty minute epic post-rock electro-funk piece) and I needed to come up with a name to upload it to the net back in the Myspace days.  This was the time when Obama was first running for office but the joke is really in reference to a Simpsons quote ‘Oboe ma boe’.

We laughed hard (there was a lot of BC bud involved) and it typed it in and it stuck.  Later people pointed out that it was a palindrome, which was great, and someone else pointed out it sounded like Bonobo, which was not so great.  Then Obama became president and I ended up living in the US and people thought I had some kind of political affiliation, but alas, no. It is also a reference to Maga Bo, an act I saw in Vancouver around that time.  ‘Bo’ is an important word in many languages around the world…. Bo selekta, etc.

  • Matt Duplessie

    Awesome review and write up Oisin!

  • Oisin Daly

    Thanks Matt